We all know what a unicorn is.
It’s an animal that doesn’t exist: it’s a myth, a fairytale.
Well, the person you’re about to hear from is a modern day “unicorn”, at least as far as modern secular culture goes. They’re not meant to exist.
You see, they’re same-sex attracted, but they’ve decided not to act on their same-sex attraction. Nor do they define themselves by such attraction. A “unicorn” indeed.
So meet “Jenna” (not her real name, for privacy purposes). She’s as real as you and me. And this is her story: a story that’s raw, and very personal. It’s a story our secular culture doesn’t want to hear…and yet, voices like hers need to be heard, especially in our cultural moment.
So here it is. Jenna’s story: part 1 of a 2 part series.
Akos: Jenna, what was your journey to realising you were same-sex attracted?
Jenna: It’s tricky to know where to start. Back in high school I always knew the way I related to my female friends was different: it wasn’t the same as how my other friends were relating. I didn’t quite know what it was, or why.
And then in my first year at uni, I became very close to a particular girl. It became a very deep friendship very quickly. Yet I didn’t think it was anything other than friendship.
Then one drunken night, let’s just say things happened between us.
And the following day, I left her place thinking: ‘Wow. That was wrong. What was I thinking? Did that actually just happen?’. The realisation made me feel sick. My religious upbringing taught me that same-sex attracted people were well beyond God’s love and forgiveness. So after that night, I was completely confused and torn apart. I couldn’t process any of it.
So I just suppressed it. I got very depressed because I didn’t face what had happened. In fact, I pretty much didn’t leave my dorm room for the next 6 months.
Akos: So that was in your first year. What happened in your second year?
Jenna: I didn’t want to go back to uni: I just wanted to leave all that behind. But I ended up coming back anyway.
I started up again still in the same headspace: very sad, and very depressed. I was carrying so much guilt and shame. Then I became quite sick and ended up in Hospital. At this point, I met some Christians, who were kind to me and looked after me. And I just couldn’t comprehend why these people would care about me!
So in my second year of uni, I began to find out more about God.
I began to ask questions about why I believed same-sex attracted people are beyond God’s love and forgiveness. This began opening the space inside my head that I pushed down for so long, especially over my earlier sexual encounter. God is forgiving, I thought, and is it possible He could forgive me for even that? So I began to see that same-sex attracted people haven’t sinned in a worse way than the rest of humanity: they’re not beyond God’s forgiveness. That completely blew my mind.
This began to bring up all the earlier stuff I had pushed down. And I started processing it…which affected my relationships with the people around me, with my new Christian friends. I hadn’t yet told anyone else about what had happened, and yet people around me knew something was different. They knew there was something going on beneath the surface of my life.
Akos: And while people could see something was going on with you, they didn’t know what?
Jenna: That’s right.
Akos: Ok. By that point, had you gained an awareness of your same-sex attraction?
Jenna: Slowly. It took a long time to admit the sexual encounter in my first year really did happen. And coming to the point of saying ‘yes, I am same-sex attracted’ took a very long time. Admitting these things was ridiculously hard for me.
Akos: And how did you feel about yourself once you admitted you were same-sex attracted?
Jenna: Absolutely terrible! The very negative original opinions I had about same-sex attracted people – all that guilt and all that shame came back to me: it hit me so hard. I felt beyond God’s love, beyond the love of the people around me, beyond forgiveness. Coping with that was the hardest thing.
Akos: And how did you manage to deal with that shame and guilt?
Jenna: Being able to work through it began by telling somebody what had happened. And as soon as I told one person about what had happened, and we prayed together about it for the first time, asking God to forgive me, pretty much immediately after we said ‘Amen’, I felt less shame and less guilt.
Akos: In terms of telling someone, what was that process like?
Jenna: The fear of telling people was overwhelming, whether they were Christian or non-Christian. What I had done, and what I was feeling: the fear was simply overwhelming.
Akos: Was it fear over how people might respond to finding out you’re same sex attracted?
Jenna: Definitely. For the first time in my life, I felt I had friends who genuinely cared about me and loved me. So I was afraid they’d look at me differently, and not love me anymore. I had a lot to lose!
Akos: So what made you decide then to tell people about your same-sex attraction? If the stakes were so high, why did you do it?
Jenna: Keeping this part of myself hidden, and so much in the dark, was just eating me alive and affecting all my relationships. I just couldn’t keep living my everyday life with the people I cared for not knowing.
Akos: And so you’ve told a number of people now. How did that go, ‘coming out’ as being same-sex attracted?